Weinberg Foundation in Govans

December 14, 1992

What's this? The low-profile Weinberg Foundation in the limelight at the Senator Theater to share the stage with Ginger Rogers? Yes, it happened last week to celebrate the opening of the new Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Senior Center at the Govans Presbyterian Church. Representing the $8 billion foundation, one of the largest in the country, was its director, Bernard Siegel, who exulted in the conversion of "a dream into a magnificent reality."

The dream has been a triangular affair involving Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the city's Commission on Aging and Retirement Education, the long-established Govans church and the late Jewish philanthropist, Harry Weinberg, who had long been concerned with the plight of old people.

In the year before his death in November 1990, Mr. Weinberg decided he wanted to endow two senior centers, at $500,000 each, in his native Baltimore -- one associated with a Protestant church and one with a Catholic, one in a predominantly white neighborhood and one in a predominantly black neighborhood. The opening of the Govans Presbyterian center fulfills one half of that dream; so far, problems finding matching funds have delayed a similar undertaking at St. Gregory's Catholic Church in Sandtown.

With the opening of the new senior center in Govans, Weinberg Foundation largess in the Baltimore area for the past two years now totals $10 million -- a quarter of all it has handed out. The foundation gives only to causes for the poor. In Baltimore, the Jewish Community Fund, the Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, Our Daily Bread and other charities have benefited.

Under Mr. Weinberg's will, the foundation cannot give more than 30 percent to any capital project, but because of his $500,000 commitment to two senior centers, the rules were bent for the Govans project, a combined church-and-community facility costing $1,350,000. The Weinberg grant helped fund the seniors center building that was the scene of a fund-raising dinner with Ginger Rogers before the celebration at the Senator.

The Weinberg Foundation has sometimes been criticized for its unorthodox, ad hoc, even secretive methods of operating, but its grants to worthy causes in the Baltimore community make it a local asset of huge interfaith value.

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